DJ David Knapp of Atlanta, spinning at Talbott Street nightclub’s fourth anniversary party last Saturday night, had me at “I’ve got to get away,” to be honest. As soon as he launched into a throbbing, heart-racing mix of “Tainted Love,” I knew he was a winner. Timeless work, that, and even though I’m the world’s biggest sucker for the classics, you gotta admit, there’s something awesome about the most diverse crowd in Indy – black, white, straight, gay, bi, whatever – all dancing like mad and pumping their fists in time to “Take my tears and that’s not really all!”
It wasn’t Knapp’s only foray into the past; I spotted a few near-forgotten 1990s tunes, the kind you wouldn’t even hear on Jack Radio. Anyone can sample “Hit me baby one more time,” but it takes talent to work “It Ain’t Much” into the mix. The music is as diverse as the crowd, eliding from 1980s alt-rock to 1990s mainstream hip-hop to raw primal tribal, all with an underbeat that shakes the floor and leaves your boots vibrating well into the next morning.
Physically, Talbott Street is like a tesseract, an outer building that can only be described as “dinky,” yet it’s far bigger on the inside, like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, with the main dance floor, bar, mainstage, second level and Legends show club seemingly more than can be stuffed in there, and that’s before you take into account the labyrinthine passages that connect it all.
Funny how the more knee-jerk, uptight people are running the whole damn world, the more alternative people want to come out to play. I suppose it’s a yin and yang balance thing. The last time Indianapolis was home to a Talbott Street nightclub, it was in the 1980s, the height of Reaganism and Cold War reactionaries. Flash forward to 2002-2006 — the current state of affairs hardly needs comment — and here we are again: Talbott Street, center of the whole damn world, with all the gay and straight and bi people in the same place, dancing to the same tune. I can hear Jerry Falwell’s veins exploding.
Four years. Hard to believe it’s been that short. Talbott Street has established itself as one of the great cultural touchstones in the city, not merely a gay club, but an arts center attracting world-class talent on a frequent basis, celebrating diversity of all sorts. It is the epitome of the whole Arts Mecca concept. Plus the bachelorette parties, celebrations of that most heterosexual of institutions (as the law currently stands, anyway). Nobody with an ounce of tolerance feels out of place here.
Michael Strapulus, co-founder, remarked, “Where culture and diversity meet – that’s our motto. That’s what Talbott Street is. The people who come here feel really taken care of, they never feel intimidated, they never feel outcast. As Andy Warhol said, the people in the club are like a salad – a good mix. A little bit gay, a little bit straight, makes a good club. We look for audiences that are accepting of new things and ideas.”
“I think everyone just feels welcome here,” said DJ Deanne, who started out some years back as a bartender and dancer and now serves as the club’s general manager. “We’re booked out weeks ahead for bachelorette parties. What would bachelorettes rather see – entertaining men dressed as women in an alternative fun night, or the cheesy, mullet-having, underdressed, oversexed, abnormally test-driven kind of show they’d get from Chippendale’s?”
Wacky drag queen fun aside, Talbott Street has assumed a central place in the community. Artistically, it’s home to some of the best DJs in the city, and it’s become a vital and viable venue for national events as well as a supporter of numerous outside events.
“The aim was to do a whole different gamut,” Strapulus said. “Live music, DJing, comedy. It was to bring a Studio 54 atmosphere to Indianapolis, something that appeals to everyone. Everyone’s going to define it the way they want to. I would say we offer something that nobody in the city offers. We bring in international DJs and singers that nobody else has ever offered. It’s the exposure. And the nice thing is, they always come back. They think we’re family and they love it. Everyone who’s come here, THEY come back to US, and that’s the most flattering of all.